During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s often easy to lose sight of what this time of year is truly about – giving. Traditionally, St. Louisans are known for their generosity and philanthropic spirit, especially during the holidays. Now, more than ever, many families in our community are struggling and in need of support. So, here’s a list of some wonderful local charities looking for volunteers during the holidays. What a terrific way to celebrate the season, spend time with family and give back!
Operation Backpack/Operation Food Search
6282 Olive Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63130
According to Operation Food Search, one of the area’s biggest food banks, 85 percent of students enrolled in St. Louis public schools rely on free or reduced-costs meal programs. However, during the weekend, these same children often go hungry as there is little to no food provided for them at home. Operation Backpack is a phenomenal program that seeks to alleviate that hunger over the weekend. On Friday afternoons, this organization provides kids with backpacks to take home that are filled with nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals. There are several different ways to get involved with this volunteer program such as filling backpacks at the warehouse, delivering them to schools, adopting a school or helping to pass out the backpacks at a specific school. See the website for several additional ways to volunteer, donate and give back.
St. Louis Crisis Nursery
11710 Administration Drive, Suite 18
St. Louis, MO 63146
A fantastic volunteer opportunity geared more toward a family with teens is the St. Louis Crisis Nursery. Kids 14 or older, accompanied by their parent, can come to any of the area crisis centers and play, rock, sing or read to the many babies and children who are staying at one of the area’s five, 24-hour shelters. The Crisis Nursery provides invaluable protection to children from birth to 12 years of age who are in desperate need of a safe haven due to family crisis or emergency such as illness or death, lack of utilities, food or shelter, domestic violence and other situations that would put a child’s safety at risk. Volunteering here is a remarkable hands-on way for teens and parents alike to make a difference in the life of an individual child who needs love, attention and affection more than ever.
Haven House STL/”Adopt a Room”
12685 Olive Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63141
Because St. Louis continues be at the epicenter of technological advancement in the field of medicine, families from all over the world travel here to seek healthcare treatment. Haven House is a terrific organization that provides such families with the comfort of home during their stay in St. Louis. There are many ways to get involved at Haven House to support these families, but one particular project that appeals to people of all ages is the “Adopt a Room” program. By adopting a room, an entire family can then collect donations/supplies from the wish list and also furnish and decorate it together. What a wonderful and truly fun way to give back together. Everyone can help and it really is a hands-on project from start to finish that directly impacts another family in such a beneficial way.
St. Louis Cares/United Way of St. Louis
St. Louis Cares is an awesome project created through The United Way in which families can sign up together for short-term projects on evenings or weekends. Sometimes the abundance of volunteer opportunities available in the community can be overwhelming. St. Louis Cares makes it easy as each volunteer completes an individual form online providing their specific areas of interest, which part of town they would like to help in and when they are available. By doing this, St. Louis Cares can then assign a volunteer project to a family that suits their passion but also their schedule, making it even more convenient to give their time and serve the community. By partnering with over 200 non-profits, St. Louis Cares really allows its volunteers variety and flexibility to keep them inspired and dedicated.
Meals on Wheels of Greater St. Louis
P.O. Box 410395
St. Louis, MO 63141
Meals on Wheels of Greater St. Louis provides an invaluable service to the community by delivering hot, nutritious and affordable meals to the elderly, handicapped and convalescent in the area who are no longer able to shop and prepare food for themselves. Besides delivering a meal, volunteers also ensure that the recipient is safe and, even more importantly perhaps, they provide a smile, warmth and compassion that those living alone so often need. Delivering meals with the whole family in tow allows kids to see firsthand how easily they can positively impact the world around them and also just how fortunate they are.
Meredith Johns is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.